+ ScanTent makes it to Mali, West Africa!

Prototypes of the ScanTent, our device for digitising documents with a mobile phone, have been popping up all over Europe over the past year. And in December 2018, the first ScanTent made it to Africa!

Dr Vincent Hiribarren (King’s College London) took the tent to the town of Kita in western Mali to try it out before using the professional equipment (cameras, tripod, scanner) provided by the Endangered Archives Programme project called ‘Recovering the rich local history of Kita (Mali) through the salvaging of its archival heritage’.  This grant is held and directed by Dr Marie Rodet (SOAS, University of London).

The Endangered Archives Programme at The British Library awards annual grants to preserve archival material that is at risk of destruction or neglect. This funding means that endangered archival collections can be transferred to new homes, digitised and deposited at local institutions and in The British Library.

The ScanTent is a portable piece of equipment which holds a user’s phone in place above a historical document, providing a consistent source of light and leaving users with their hands free to turn pages or move documents around.  The advantages of the ScanTent become even greater when it is used in conjunction with our DocScan mobile app.  DocScan automatically detects the page area of a document and provides real-time feedback on image quality.  It also has an auto-shoot feature which will take a photo every time a page is turned.  Transkribus users can upload images to the platform directly from DocScan and these images can then be used for training an Automated Text Recognition model.

Dr Hiribarren installed DocScan on his phone in advance of his trip and was then able to set up the ScanTent quickly on location in Kita and start scanning! This experiment really shows that these tools have huge potential to open up access to unique collections of historical material all over the globe.

DocScan is available now, free of charge.  The ScanTent is still in development and units will be available for sale and hire later in 2019.

Testing out the ScanTent in Kita (Mali). Image credit: Vincent Hiribarren.

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